Over the last 12 months, NI-CO has been working as part of an international consortium to deliver a prestigious EU-wide contract to assist in the development and provision of training in internet investigations for the EU Consumer Protection Cooperation (CPC) and the Consumer Product Safety Networks (CSN).

The € 1.7 million contract is a direct response to the rapid growth in on line trading and will see the development and provision of high-quality training and learning materials to support the work of all EU national consumer protection authorities and the network of authorities responsible for consumer product safety.

Cognisant of the varying levels of experience and competence across the EU consumer protection community, the project has developed a confidential  e-enforcement academy accessible via the EU website where users can access information on the most basic elements of ‘e commerce’ and new business models to a more sophisticated e learning facility. The training and supporting learning material is of a very high standard and is already proving to be extremely useful to EU consumer protection and product safety enforcement staff as they meet the day to day challenges of implementing new EU directives. As well as providing advice and support on legal issues, the on line tutorials offer practical support about where and how to target resources, the principles for effective market surveillance, intelligence sources and formal versus informal enforcement action.

One of the highlights of the project to date has been the development of blogposts alerting investigators and consumer protection officers to on line scams involving counterfeit products, holidays, investment opportunities, dating websites, IT technical support and employment opportunities. These posts reference real life cases and enforcement action from across the globe and allow officers to introduce more preventative and proactive measures to improve e-enforcement and combat on line fraud. At present we are finalising a ‘Special Holiday Consumer Safety Post ’ – identifying possible product safety problems in purchasing presents on line in the lead up to  the holiday season.

As we approach the second year of the project, we look forward to continuing our work alongside The Spanish Association for Standardization and the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) in enhancing our offering for the consumer protection community and in safeguarding the 280 million individuals in the EU28 who shop online.